The former Camp Nou loanee claims that the Frenchman needs “pointing in the right direction” in order to fulfil his potential in La Liga
Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele “has been a little boy who doesn’t know how it all works”, according to Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Boateng played alongside the 22-year-old during a six-month loan spell at Camp Nou last season, helping the Blaugrana retain the Spanish title.
Since completing a £136 million ($168m) switch to Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, Dembele has struggled to live up to expectations at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
The France international has reportedly been disciplined on a number of occasions for missing training sessions, while failing to establish himself as a regular in Ernesto Valverde’s starting XI.
Having witnessed his enigmatic talent up close, Boateng believes his lack of discipline can be put down to his relatively young age and that he’s “just a little boy who earns a lot of money”.
The Fiorentina midfielder told Sport Bild: “He has been very calm, does not talk much. He has been still like a child for me. You have to take him as he has been and it may be that he’s late [to training].
“There are players who do that in defiance, but that’s different with him, he’s just like a little boy. One who earns a lot of money. One who has been extremely public. You have to point him in the right direction.
“For me, he’s still a little boy who was thrown into this giant pool, suddenly cost €150m overnight, and still doesn’t know how it all works because he just wants to play football.”
Dembele has only featured in one of Barca’s three La Liga fixtures at the start of the new season, suffering a hamstring strain against Athletic Bilbao on August 16.
To date, the former Dortmund ace has scored 18 goals in 66 appearances in total for the Spanish champions, but he could be pushed further down the pecking order after the arrival of Antoine Griezmann.
His fellow countryman has been expected to form one-third of an all-star attacking triumvirate alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi as the season progresses.
Dembele has 21 caps at international level for France and played four matches during the team’s run to World Cup glory in Russia last year.
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However, injury woes have seen him miss out on a spot in Didier Deschamps’s squad on two occasions in 2019 and he may be in danger of a lengthy exile if he cannot win his place back at Camp Nou.
Dembele has been not expected to return to action until the end of September, meaning he will likely miss upcoming fixtures against Valencia, Granada and Villarreal, along with a trip to his old club Dortmund in the Champions League.